Meretz to Hold New Primary Election After Party Convention Fails to Decide on Slate

Contender for chairman hails 'first step on the road to renewal' of left-wing party ■ Jewish-Arab duo quits race to back incumbent

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg at a party meeting, May 27, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Meretz party will hold primaries ahead of Israel's September 17 election, the party's convention decided Sunday, in a move largely viewed as a vote of no-confidence for incumbent chairwoman Tamar Zandberg. 

Currently running for party leadership are Zandberg and former MK Nitzan Horowitz. The primary election will also determine the composition of the party ticket. 

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MK Esawi Freige and former MK Mossi Raz announced they would not be running for joint party chairmanship, as they had said they would last week. The two said they endorse Zandberg, but are still hoping to bring Jewish-Arab partnership to the fore. They also noted their support for human rights lawyer Gaby Lasky, whom they hope to have on the party ticket. 

>> Read more: This what Israel's center-left has to do if it wants to take Netanyahu down in the next election

Former MK Nitzan Horowitz, also running for party leadership, welcomed the convention’s decision Sunday. “This is the first step toward party revival and the establishment of a broad camp, as I have committed to doing,” he said. “I am convinced that these elections [by the convention] will give Meretz a significant boost and a tailwind for the general election.”

During the convention session, Zandberg turned to the participants and asked for “the right to finish what I’ve started, what we’ve started, and beg us not to give up on Meretz, but to strengthen it. ... We must not let the disappointing results of the last election to bring us to despair, because the next election will be a totally different situation.”

Zandberg also referred to the possibility that Meretz would join forces with other parties and said she will strive to form “political alliances and moves that would help beat the right.”

Horowitz also addressed the convention, saying, “These are not easy times. There are too many camps, too much intrigue and conflict among us. The energy we invest in internal struggles is inversely proportional to our influence outside. It’s about time we reverse this equation, to invest the maximum effort outward, with a minimum of internal bickering. We must clear the atmosphere in Meretz, bring in a new spirit, clear air. Everything that we preach outwardly, we must also apply to ourselves, here at home.”

Meretz’s current slate was chosen in February by the tens of thousands of party members in the party’s first-ever broad primary election. Its constitution stipulates that the decision over the next slate would return to the limited forum of the party convention.

Sunday's vote aroused a lot of tension in the party, along with initiatives aimed at helping current Knesset members avoid having to compete again, and even a proposal to give Zandberg a reserved spot on the slate for the next Knesset.

A do-over general election was called last month after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself following failed attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a governing coalition.